Unknown Origins

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Unknown Origins Movie Poster Image
Graphic violence in unique take on superhero story.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While the movie tries to show that comic book "geeks" and cosplay enthusiasts can have successful careers and fulfilling lives, they're also frequently the butt of obvious and stereotypical jokes, including frequent mockery. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

 While the movie spends a lot of time among characters who are obsessed with comic books and cosplay, much of the humor is rooted in making cliched and stereotyped fun of "geeks," even as it makes some attempt to show that people interested in these things can have as successful careers and fulfilling lives as anyone else in the "real world." 

Violence

Grisly police violence. Characters found murdered in a variety of disturbing ways, their corpses graphically shown as the police coroner goes into detail about how they were tortured and killed. Characters fight with guns, punches, kicks, a tire iron. Talk of how a "kid" raped, dismembered, and decapitated a 6-year-old girl. Discussion of how a sibling of one of the lead characters died while saving three people from a burning building. Talk of how one of the lead character's parents were killed in a manner resembling how Bruce Wayne's parents were killed. Lead character talks of how he was bullied every day growing up, physically and verbally. 

Sex

Passionate kissing in one scene. The comic-book obsessed lead character keeps a large collection of anime pornography hidden in a secret compartment behind his bedroom wall. Back side of overweight comic book-obsessed character shown for comedic effect in two scenes. Talk of masturbation. In a comic book store, two customers are overheard debating whether or not Dumbledore and Grindelwald ever had sex. 

Language

Frequent profanity. "F--k" often used. Also: "s--t," "s--tballs," "d--khead," "piss," "bastard," "ass." 

Consumerism

Coca-Cola mentioned by name. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Unknown Origins is a 2020 action-horror-comedy in which a slacker comic book store owner helps a cynical detective track down a serial killer. The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles. The murders are based on the origin stories of various superheroes, and there are graphic depictions of the corpses when discovered at the crime scenes and in the morgue. In addition to the violence of the murders, there's other talk of violent crimes perpetrated, including a scene in which the coroner discusses how a "kid" raped, dismembered, and decapitated a 6-year-old girl. Frequent profanity, including "f--k." Also: "s--t," "s--tballs," "d--khead," "piss," "bastard," "ass." Talk of masturbation, sex, and scenes in which it's revealed that the comic bookstore owner keeps a large collection of anime pornography in his room. Brief nonsexual nudity -- a character's butt crack makes an appearance for the sake of comedy. Wine drinking. 

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What's the story?

In UNKNOWN ORIGINS, Madrid detective Cosme begins to transition into retirement. He's paired with David, a young and ambitious detective, as they seek to track down a serial killer committing a series of gruesome and seemingly random murders throughout the city. Enter Cosme's son Jorge Elias, a slacker comic book store owner. Upon learning of the murders, Jorge immediately recognizes the pattern: The killings are based on the origin stories of various superheroes. Jorge Elias is immediately sent to replace Cosme, much to David's chagrin. While David actively dislikes Jorge, it doesn't take long for Jorge to begin to establish a pattern in the killings that leads them deeper into the madness of the murderer. When David inadvertently discusses the traumatic event from his past that left him an orphan while a young boy, the seemingly unrelated clues all start to make a semblance of sense, and David and Jorge must track down the killer before he strikes again. 

Is it any good?

While not perfect, this film does present a unique take on the superhero story. There are some nice twists that are clearly rooted in the familiar stories of misfits, conflicted heroes, and psychopathic bad guys, and out of these conventions, new heroes emerge with one foot in the comic book universe, and the other in the real world. This is especially true of the two lead characters, and while the "opposite" characters in police-centered movies is as cliched as it gets, there's enough in the acting and chemistry between the two leads to add something new to the storylines. 

However, it's some of these very conventions that hinder Unknown Origins. For instance, it really doesn't take that long to figure out who the serial killer is if you pay the slightest bit of attention. And in terms of its conveyance of so-called geek culture, the movie can't seem to decide if it wants to portray comic book and cosplay enthusiasts as either the cliche of dateless and socially awkward weirdos or competent functioning adults with a quirky side hobby, and end up trying to have it both ways. With the former, the attempts at humor are lazy and unoriginal, and they tend to negate the latter. While it doesn't ruin what is otherwise an engaging movie, it does prevent it from being as good as it might have been. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories centered on superheroes. How does Unknown Origins play with the style and format of the superhero story? 

  • This movie was based on a book. What would be the challenges in adapting a book into a movie? 

  • How are fans of comic books and cosplay conveyed in the movie? 

Movie details

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For kids who love superheroes

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